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Mitigating Risk, Investing in Our Future

By Greg Jones

July 7, 2022

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One common challenge among employers is the continued loss of skilled labor. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, an aging workforce, and limited interest from candidates have created a gap that will be challenging to cover. Industrial modernization and automation are helping to mitigate some of thesebut it isn’t enough.

The need to recruit, train, and retain is ever more critical for success. Although we need to recruit, we are losing those who can train and onboard new staff. “If you are looking to hire experienced and dedicated employees of past generations, you will be hard-pressed to find them—they simply aren’t around anymore,” shared one prominent CEO during a recent Fibre Box Association conference. As baby boomers near retirement, we stand to lose 25% of our workforce.

In addition, younger generations have different demands and experiences. Most candidates look for benefits around flexible work hours, work-from-home policies, and child care options, to name a few. The challenge is that these make onboarding and collaboration among staff even more difficult. With that said, I personally embraced the CEO’s comments and agree that while we need to be flexible, we also need to consider how these demands affect productivity.

To align company needs with employee demands, many box plants are shifting strategies. Another CEO shared how their company simplified its online application process to be more inclusive and user-friendly for prospective employees with language barriers or limited computer skills. Others are holding in-house job fairs to allow recruits to fully experience the roles and opportunities within the company before they commit.

Once new recruits are employed, a common retention strategy is to match them with a mentor. Typically, a senior manager will be assigned to check in regularly with a new hire to help manage employee satisfaction and provide consistent support and training. Another executive mentioned how they don’t set overtime hours for the first 90 days so that they don’t scare new hires.

We are fortunate that associations such as AICC have invested in the cause and are providing tools we can all leverage. AICC has done a tremendous job providing online education and on-site seminars for career development. As of March, AICC members completed more than 10,600 online courses—reinforcing the hunger for knowledge and training. The pandemic did help to drive those numbers, as many people were searching for online resources and tailored education as a result. If your company has not already committed, I would certainly encourage you to consider becoming an AICC Education Investor or make a commitment to the Foundation for Packaging Education—or both! Sometimes the best gift we can give is the gift of learning. The Foundation for Packaging Education is instrumental in offering premier educational programming, products, and services to help sustain the industry overall.

To better understand these offerings, please reach out to AICC Director of Education and Professional Development Taryn Pyle at tpyle@aiccbox.org.


Greg Jones is executive vice president at SUN Automation Group and is vice Chair of AICC’s Associate board.